R.I.S.E. media release on Curtin hunger strike

Over 1100 people are currently in Curtin detention centre in the middle of the desert in Western Australia where most of them have been transferred from Christmas Island detention centre after last year’s freeze on the processing of visas for Afghan detainees. This transfer was done against the recommendations of many human rights and refugee rights advocates. Professor Sev Ozdowski, of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission was reported to have said last year that Curtin was the most wretched of all the detention centres he had investigated.

More than 300 detainees at Curtin detention centre are on hunger strike at the moment, protesting under the hot sun and refusing to go back inside and take food. Detainees are chanting: “We have danger in our country, we can’t go back.”

RISE CEO Ramesh Fernandez says, “Are we simply blind enough to increase the troops in Afghanistan and ignore the victims that war creates? We have been battling the same arguments for the last two decades and not a single one of those arguing against us has come up with a solution which addresses real issues instead of playing politics with our lives. This MoU is a condescending arrangement that has been reached with a war-torn nation.

The role of the UNHCR in facilitating this arrangement must be seriously questioned. What is this agency doing supporting arrangements to forcibly relocate unaccompanied children and others back to a war-zone with an ever-deteriorating security situation?”

While the Australian Government has prepared official documents to excuse its refusal of Afghani refugees visa applications, a young man tried to kill himself by cutting his body. He was taken to Derby Hospital and subsequently treated.

These detainees are simply asking that the Department of Immigration explain why they have been made to wait so long since the visa freeze and are also questioning the reason for such high rates of rejection.

A RISE correspondent from Curtin detention centre says, “Immigration is saying [there is] no hunger strike inside the camps. If the people are not on hunger strike, why are they not giving permission to journalists to visit inside the detention centre?” Indeed, what does the Department have to hide from the Australian public?

By signing this MOU, UNHCR an international body that purports to not only uphold the rights of refugees but also set standards on the treatment of refugees the world over places its credibility and more importantly the lives of people fleeing persecution at serious risk.

Media correspondent Ramesh Fernandez 03 9639 8623